Issued by: Truth and Reconciliation Commission
STATEMENT BY ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU, CHAIRPERSON OF THE TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has received a report from the Amnesty Committee on the steps it has taken on the matter of the 37 amnesties which were set aside by the Cape High Court on May 8. The Amnesty Committee is autonomous and the full Commission has no power to review the process by which it reaches its decisions. Nevertheless, we feel it is in the interests of the public to relay the Amnesty Committee's progress.
1. The Committee is still awaiting the formal text of the High Court's order.
2. It has already been decided that the 37 amnesty applications will not be considered by the panel which handled them previously. A new panel will be constituted as soon as practically possible.
3. Amnesty Committee staff have located another 109 applications from applicants, some of whom have also applied for amnesty on the basis that, as members of the ANC leadership, they accept collective responsibility for acts carried out by others in the name of the organisation they led.
4. The Amnesty Committee will ensure in its deliberations that where further particulars may be required to help it come to a decision on the applications, they will be requested from the applicants.
5. The future handling of the applications will lie in the hands of the newly-constituted panel, not the Commission. However, as we understand the law, the following scenarios are now possible:
- Should an amnesty applicant give details in an amnesty application, or in further particulars to an application, of a specific act, omission or offence in respect of which he/she applies for amnesty which constitutes a "gross violation of human rights" as defined in the Act (i.e. killing, torture, abduction or severe ill-treatment), then the Committee is bound to hold a public hearing to consider the application;
- Should an applicant give details of a specific act, omission or offence which does NOT constitute a gross violation of human rights as defined in the Act, then the Committee has a discretion to hold a public hearing but is not required to. Of course, should an applicant not declare a gross violation and receive amnesty for activity not constituting a gross violation, he or she would be liable to prosecution or civil actions later should his/her participation in "killing, torture, abduction or severe ill-treatment" be proved.
The Amnesty Committee is committed to ensuring in its deliberations that the formal requirements of the Act are complied with. We are confident of the ability of the members of the Amnesty Committee and await the outcome of their deliberations in due course.